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Usability Professionals’ Association Supports Consideration of Voting System Usability and Effectiveness in California Recall Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, SEPTEMBER 16, 2003


The Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA), a society of professionals dedicated to making software and other products easier for people to use, announced today that it supports the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ consideration of the effectiveness of the voting experience in its decision to delay the gubernatorial recall election in California. The association also called for a full evaluation of all US voting systems to be certain that voters are able to cast a proper vote with ease and efficiency.


Whitney Quesenbery, Director of the UPA’s Voting and Usability Project, an outreach project designed to provide its membership with standards and best practices for evaluating the ease-of-use of voting systems internationally, cited concern over punch card and other systems, as well as the rush to conduct an election featuring a long, difficult ballot.


“Once again, the usability of a long-used voting system has been called into question by our judiciary,” said Ms. Quesenbery. “It is crucial that all voting systems in the US be properly evaluated for usability.”


The difficulty of punch card voting has been cited as a key reason for confusion in the 2000 presidential election. She cited the court decision’s statement that as many as 40,000 voters might unintentionally miscast their punch-card style ballot. This staggering figure could easily mean the difference in an election because of difficulty that voters may experience using the punch card ballot. A voter attempting to cast a ballot at the polls has no way to be sure the vote has been properly punched.


“The international standard definition of usability cites the ability to work in a manner that is effective, efficient and satisfying,” said Elizabeth Rosenzweig, President of UPA. “What could be less effective than to leave the voting booth not knowing whether your vote will actually be counted?”


The introduction of new voting systems may not prove to be a universal remedy without proper evaluation, Rosenzweig noted. The court noted that any transition to new systems be well-thought out and orderly, with adequate time for training. The UPA believes that usability evaluation and user-centered design should be a part of that process, according to Ms. Quesenbery.


“The US Supreme Court rightly noted that any restriction to voting strikes at the heart of representative democracy,” said Josephine Scott, a member of the Voting and Usability project. “If voters cannot easily determine how to cast a proper ballot, even after years of voting on the same system, our democratic process is weakened. By maximizing the ease-of-use of our systems, we have the opportunity to make democracy stronger.”

The Usability Professionals' Association is an international, non-profit, professional association with more than 1700 members in the US and 35 other countries. Members are specialists in evaluating and designing products that are easy to learn and use. The organization provides its members with a wide variety of professional services. Through outreach the UPA:

  • Shares information about the skills and approach of usability professionals in meeting needs for usable products.
  • Acts as an advocate for usability in consumer, corporate and governmental software, products and web sites.
  • Educates the general public about the usability.

For more information, contact:

The Usability Professionals' Association
140 N. Bloomingdale Rd.
Bloomingdale, IL 60108-1017
email: office@upassoc.org
web: http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org

Voting and Usability Project

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